Thursday, April 11, 2013

Virtual Geography Convention 2013: Ancient Mayan Water Storage and Purification

Welcome to the Virtual Geography Convention 2013!  If you have a presentation or blog post you wished published please contact me at catholicgauze [at] gmail [dot] com!

Graduate student  Jeffrey Brewer is presenting “Hinterland Hydrology: Mapping the Medicinal Trail Community, Northwest Belize” at the AAG 2013 conference.

While is presentation is not online the University of Cincinnati has a news article about his research into Ancient Mayan water storage and purification.  An interesting part of the article is

"Brewer ‘s discovery of artificial reservoirs – topographical depressions that were lined with clay to make a water-tight basin – addressed how the Maya conserved water from the heavy rainfall from December to spring, which got them through the region’s extreme dry spells that stretched from summer to winter. “They also controlled the vegetation directly around these reservoirs at this hinterland settlement,” says Brewer. “The types of lily pads and water-borne plants found within these basins helped naturally purify the water. They knew this, and they managed the vegetation by these water sources that were used for six months when there was virtually no rainfall."
His abstract is below

"The Medicinal Trail site, covering an area approximately 1 kilometer in diameter, is a dispersed hinterland community located near the major ancient Maya site of La Milpa in northwestern Belize. Occupied primarily during the Classic Period (AD 250-900), this terraced community consists of at least three closely related formal courtyard groups, a number of informal mound clusters, and multiple landscape modifications including terraces, depressions, and linear features. These plaster-paved surface features served to direct water into the natural depressions, or reservoirs, which served as open catchment basins partially designed to collect wet season rainfall and hold sporadic surface runoff or water from more permanent canalized surfaces. Two years of total station mapping at the site have revealed distinct patterns of settlement selection and water management practices. Survey and mapping have revealed a settlement pattern in which, (a) the largest, and most complex household groups are associated with ridge tops, (b) possible artificial drainages and reservoirs are associated with dense settlement, and (c) numerous terraces are located on the slopes of the ridges, adjacent to some of the drainage features. Mapping data collection will continue in future seasons—as will interpretation of the hydraulic landscape—as we seek gain a clearer understanding of the complex interrelationship between water and people within this peripheral settlement."

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